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Pro Football Preview. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired September 6, 2015 - 15:30   ET



[15:30:14] DAN MARINO, SPORTS ANCHOR: Hi, I'm Dan Marino.

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: And I'm Rachel Nichols. Welcome to Pro Football Preview, brought to you by FanDuel.

America's favorite pastime is finally back this week and I'm going to brag on my friend Dan, here, for a minute because there is no better person to be talking to about the upcoming season. Nine-time pro bowler, NFL MVP, inducted into the pro football hall of fame. It's like you were pretty good or something.

MARINO: I was OK. Thanks.

NICHOLS: Well, I am thrilled that we're doing this because the NFL isn't just popular among sports fans, it is popular, period. And over the next half hour, we will bring you all the big names and all the big storylines you need to know.


NICHOLS (voice-over): It's the week America has been waiting for. Thirty two teams beginning their battle for super bowl glory. And all the big names ready to take their shot. Quarterback Peyton Manning.

PEYTON MANNING, QUARTERBACK, DENVER BRONCOS: You don't take it for granted. The competition, the camaraderie, it's something I still enjoy. Still fortunate to still be doing it.

NICHOLS: Coach Pete Carroll, his Seattle Seahawks moving past the sting of their super bowl mistake.

PETER CARROLL, HEAD COACH, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Well, it's real, you know, it happens.

NICHOLS: Dan Marino gives his quarterback ratings and question marks. We'll go inside training camp where virtual reality is giving teams an edge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I was kind of just blown away by the technology initially.

NICHOLS: And talk to the first female assistant coach in NFL history.

The NFL is back. (END VIDEOTAPE)

NICHOLS: Look at that last picture there, Tom Brady.

Dan, you and I worked together at the super bowl at the beginning of the year.


NICHOLS: We were talking about.

MARINO: Deflate-gate.

NICHOLS: And now it's September and we are talking about?

MARINO: Same thing. Deflate-gate.

NICHOLS: What are your thoughts on this whole mess?

MARINO: Well, first of all, it's hard to believe that from last year's super bowl until now and all this drama and back and forth and all these things in between about air in the footballs and going to court and trying to figure this all out, that they haven't been able to handle this earlier, you know.

And hopefully, now it's all about getting back to football. We don't have to talk about deflate-gate anymore. I have a suggestion. You know, you go back to the old days, let the quarterbacks throw the balls that they want to throw in the game, because they're the ones throwing the ball. That's a little bit of a different take than most people have, but they're the ones out there throwing it. Let them use the balls they want to use.

NICHOLS: If there's no rules about what the footballs have to look like nobody can break the rules. That's good.

MARINO: So there is more rules.

NICHOLS: No rules, no one can break the rules, that's good.

All right. As the defending champions, the Patriots are the team playing in the NFL season opener this Thursday night. Now, Roger Goodell won't be there. This is going to be the first time in his time as commissioner, nearly a decade, that they won't have that distraction.

Still, what do you think the Patriots need to do? This whole saga isn't quite over, they're still in the appeals process. How do they move over?

MARINO: Well, I don't think there's going to be a distraction with that football team when you look at Bill Belichick, you know, one of the great coaches of all time in the NFL. You've got Tom Brady, you know, quarterback position. You've got to be mentally tough. I think this kind of challenge is something that, you know, he would love after all this, you know, the whole thing that has happened, he's going to come out and have a good game and he'll be focused too.

NICHOLS: Absolutely.

All right. Well, here's one thing you can be sure of on Thursday night, those footballs will be properly inflated under new NFL rules. The league will use its own personnel to guard the footballs pregame and then they will randomly check air pressure at halftime.

All right, we have got to now talk about the other team from last year's super bowl, the Seahawks. Seattle once again a favorite this year, but first they're going to need to show that they can move past what happened last season. We all remember the play at the end of the super bowl. All seemed perfect low set for the Seahawks, seal a second straight title with a simple running play, right? Instead they passed. The ball was intercepted.

Dan, these kinds of plays, how do they stick with you?

MARINO: Well, first of all, I don't think it's a bad call in the situation. And bowing a quarterback, I love to throw.

NICHOLS: Always want to pass.

MARINO: I don't know. But the thing about it is it does stick with you. There's no doubt that Russell Wilson this whole off-season and as he gets older, he's going to be thinking about this because this was a real opportunity or great opportunity to win the super bowl.

But, you know, the one thing you've got to learn from these situations and if I was talking to Russell Wilson, I would say, you know, just kind of accept this, understand what happened and move on. So I don't think it's going to be a distraction for him this year. What happened, they're going to be a favorite to win the super bowl, at least, I think they are.

NICHOLS: Well, interesting you should say that, because I spoke with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll a little earlier and I asked him how he and his team are doing with their unfortunate super bowl moment as they look ahead to this season. Take a listen.


CARROLL: Well, it's real, you know, it happened. So it's there, you know, somewhere. So when the time is right and when it fits, you kind of call that up. I've been doing that for years. I've got a lot of games in my history, you know, that stay with me. But we have to put it in the right place because we have a lot of work to do. And our guys have turned their focus forward. You know, we were disappointed with the way it ended of course and we're anxious to get back at it. They're going to persevere and hang through anything. That's just the kind of people they are.

[15:35:14] NICHOLS: Your players always say you are able to pull off the unlikely as a coach because you have this holistic approach. They get treated as whole people, not just football players. How has that developed and changed for you up and through this year? CARROLL: Well, you know, we've always been in the mode of trying to

figure out how to help our guys be the best they can be. And that sounds kind of simple but when you are really committed to that and you compete at that, then that means and every way, every opportunity that presents itself, you look to see how you can help somebody benefit and grow.

NICHOLS: When the golden state warriors won the NBA championship with Steve Kerr, he gave you some credit saying that spending time with you in your program before he started his job actually taught him a lot about how he wanted to run his team. You've long been seen as something as an outlier as a coach, but do you think your approach may start getting copied more and more across pro sports?

CARROLL: Well, I don't know about that. It's kind of hard to be like us, but we're a little different. But there is a way to treat people that gives you a chance to bring out the best that's in them. When people like Steve come through and asks us about it, we try to show them what we do and how we are. I don't know if others will follow that. I don't know.

NICHOLS: Now your quarterback, Russell Wilson, has been involved in some stories the past few months, a lot of which caused quite a media stir. You've always told players you want them to be individuals, not try to conform. But is there any point where you say, hey, let's tone this down a bit?

CARROLL: No. I do want our guys to be who they are. Who do I want them to be like, somebody else? I want them to be exactly like they are. And then as we go through the challenges and the trials, there's learning and teaching going on and we're trying to grow through it. But I think to make somebody something other than they are is the real mistake. So, sometimes, you know, they have got to learn and we've got to learn as we go. And we've been through a lot together and our guys do have a lot of examples. They have a lot of strong people in this locker room that they can learn from and draw from and Russell is one of those guys.


NICHOLS: Good stuff there from Pete Carroll. He doesn't want his guys to be perfect, he wants them to be exactly who they are. Do you think that buys him some credibility when he's not perfect?

MARINO: Yes, there's no doubt. I mean, he said in that interview to be the best they can be, you know. And I really think, you know, Pete is a great football coach because of the experience that he's had. He was in the pros, he was an assistant, he was a head coach and then assistant again. Then he goes to college. And all that experience of dealing with players makes him a great coach and an understanding coach.

NICHOLS: Well, I know a lot of guys who just like to get back to the super bowl in the first place. So coming up right after this break, my conversation with Peyton Manning. At 39 years old, he's set to make some concessions to age, including going on a new diet. Of course, he told me not everything is off limits.


MANNING: Try to be disciplined about it, but I still get to eat my good New Orleans seafood when I'm going home, Rachel, so it's nothing too crazy.



[15:41:03] NICHOLS: Welcome back. I'm Rachel Nichols here with Dan Marino.

And as we look at the top story lines for this upcoming football season, it's hard not to mention Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.


NICHOLS: Dan, he's 39 years old. And there have been questions about whether this will be or maybe should be his final NFL season. You retired at 38. How hard was that for you?

MARINO: Extremely hard. I mean, any time you've played a sport and you've loved a sport since you've been a little kid and retiring and walking away is tough. I mean -- and I don't think -- personally I don't think Peyton Manning is thinking about retirement. I mean, last year was very productive, had a great year during the playoffs. I think he threw 39 touchdowns.

But, you know, health comes into it and you get to that age and start thinking about that "R" word sometimes. I say that, and it's retirement. And you know when you start thinking about that that it's pretty close, it's right around the corner.

NICHOLS: Yes. We should note, as you say, Peyton is still putting up incredible numbers.

MARINO: No. He's playing great.

NICHOLS: And get this. He recently revealed that he's been doing that despite the fact that all those neck surgeries he had a few years ago, they left him without any feeling in the fingers of his throwing hand. Seriously. I caught up with Peyton earlier and asked him just how he's been pulling this off.


MANNING: It's just been part of the transition of adjusting to a new physical state, you know. Overcoming some strength issues, overcoming some loss of sensation issues, it's just been part of the adjustment, Rachel. It's why I have to wear a glove every now and then due to the grip of the ball in certain, you know, climates or weather, you know, whatever you will. So I've tried to adjust to it the best I can. NICHOLS: And, look, you're 39 years old. That means constantly

reassessing the way you take care of yourself, making sure you can still play the way you want to. What are the biggest changes that you made this past off-season?

MANNING: Yes, I did some new things training-wise, incorporated into my training regimen, made some new, you know, diet changes trying to focus on some specific things that I thought would make me, you know, put me in better shape and get me ready for this season. I'm a little leaner than I have been in years past. And I try to be disciplined about it. But I still get to eat my, you know, good New Orleans seafood when I'm going home, Rachel, so it's nothing too crazy.

NICHOLS: All right. Well, I'm co-hosting here on the show with Dan Marino. He retired at age 38. Tom Brady has been very vocal about he wants to play into his 40s. What about you, how much longer do you see yourself playing?

MANNING: Yes. It's hard to say. I'm not able to predict the future. I'm looking forward to playing this season and then, you know, like always, I think you have to kind of assess things at the end of the season. But I certainly hope to be playing next year as well. I still enjoy working out. I enjoy competing. And I think as long as you can compete, you can help a team and you are healthy enough to help a team, you know, I think everybody wants to keep doing it. If you can do it into your 40s, you know, all the better. But right now, I feel good and I want to keep playing as long as I do feel good, as long as I can still help a team.

NICHOLS: And you know, of course, that an email was recently made public in which Tom Brady told his dad he'd ultimately win that friendly rivalry between you two because he's going to outlast you by five or six years. What was your reaction when you heard that?

MANNING: I didn't read it. You know, Tom sent me a text. He apologized that my name was brought up into this. And it was no harm, no foul. It was an unnecessary apology. Tom and I have had a good friendship throughout our careers and will continue to have a good friendship, you know, long after we play. So I really didn't give it a whole lot of attention.


NICHOLS: That email I referenced from Brady was unearthed, of course, during the deflate-gate investigation.

MARINO: Do we have to say that again?

NICHOLS: I know, right? Peyton is so gracious about it. But you know, it is a little trash talk between friends, right?

MARINO: It's not a big deal. You saw what Peyton said. It's nothing.

NICHOLS: Yes. Well, here is the real question then. He is obviously one of the best of all time, but Peyton is 39 years old. Does he still go on your list of elite quarterbacks for this season?

[15:45:05] MARINO: No question in my mind, I mean, as far as, you know, Peyton is concerned, what he's done throughout his career. You look there, Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, but Peyton Manning, no question he's an elite quarterback.

NICHOLS: Right. Now, there's a name we're used to seeing and we don't see it here. What about this list here because you've got Ben Roethlisberger on this other list?

MARINO: Actually, Ben is an elite quarterback and I was going to throw his name in there for sure. I mean, but the question marks this year are the fact that, you know, some of his teammates are injured that are very important to him and that's Maurkice Pouncey, who's your center, Le'veon Bell, who's suspended right now. Those are two key players for him, especially early in the year.

NICHOLS: All right, excellent.

Coming up after this break, we are going to hear from Jen Welter, the woman who this summer became the NFL's first female assistant coach and she is amazing. Stick around.


[15:49:24] NICHOLS: Welcome back to CNN's pro football preview. We're looking here at fan duel's top players by position.

Some good names there, especially at tight end. Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, both fan favorites. Dan, who would you take between those two?

MARINO: Can I have them both? Do I have to pick?

NICHOLS: If you do your draft right, maybe. Of course you were a fan favorite. It probably depends a little bit on where you live, but just about everybody does have one because just about everybody loves the NFL.

Rashan Ali is here to break down the league's popularity by the numbers -- Rashan.

RASHAN ALI, CNN SPORTS: So Dan and Rachel, the NFL is more popular than ever. Let's break down the numbers, 185 million Americans call themselves fans. And that's nearly 60 percent of the U.S. population and nearly half of those fans, about 45 percent, are women. For a true read on the NFL's popularity, look no further than your flat screen. Of the 50 most watched shows last fall, 45 were NFL games. The super bowl between the Patriots and the Seahawks averaged nearly 115 million viewers. Maybe it is the most watched show in U.S. history. And 54 million female viewers tuned in making it the most watched show ever among women. Of course, the game is played beyond the field itself. This is debut in 1988, the madden NFL franchise has sold over 100 million copies. And in the version of Madden NFL 16, you can even make a one-handed catch, just like (INAUDIBLE). Now, even more ways for fans to get involved in the action. Nearly 57

million people in the U.S. and Canada play some version of fantasy sports. Seventy-Three percent say football is their favorite and they're watching more life games to keep tabs on their players. And the popularity of daily fantasy is exploding as fans can now build teams week to week.

So guys, whether it's in the real word or the virtual world, the NFL's popularity shows no signs of slowing down.

[15:51:27] NICHOLS: Well, Rashan, those fantasy numbers are kind of crazy. I mean, you live in south Florida. Do people still come up to you at the gas station and the grocery store and they say, can I have your fantasy advice?

MARINO: You know, I do get a little bit of that, you know. And my kids have, you know, fantasy team. So I tried to give them -- I don't claim to be an expert. But I do give them my advice.

NICHOLS: I think you are here claiming to be an expert. Pretty good.

All right. Fantasy football not the only trend as Rashan just noted. More women are watching the NFL than ever before. And this preseason, we had the first ever woman coaching in the NFL.

Jen Welter who played football herself for more than a dozen years became an assistant coach with Arizona. At the end of her time there, The cardinals Players called the experiment just a huge success. And when I sat down with Jen, I asked her why it worked so well.


JEN WELTER, FORMER ARIZONA CARDINALS ASSISTANT COACH: Because I cared as much about them as people as I did about them as players and I actually really know football. You know, the first test would always be like, you know, does she know what she's talking about. And the other big thing that really got them respect-wise and that I knew was a lot like show of respect was when they would come up, coach, I watched your highlights, man, you know, yes, you were out there hitting.

NICHOLS: But how do you think it changes for girls now watching you?

WELTER: They can look at me on an NFL sidelines coaching these guys and be like, I want to be like her someday. It's another dream we as women have been limited in what we can dream and now it's possible.


NICHOLS: Got to love that, right?

MARINO: Yes. I think it's important that the players, you know, accepted her there and thought that she was great.

NICHOLS: Pretty cool.

All right. You are not going to want to go anywhere because after this break, I'm putting Dan on the spot for some season predictions.

Plus, Coy Wire takes us inside training camp to test out some of the new virtual reality technology.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was blown away by the technology initially.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a former safety, I don't know, I think he got me to open up my hips.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. That's the key.



[15:56:23] NICHOLS: Welcome back to pro football preview brought to you by Fan Dual. I'm rich l Nichols. Dan Marino is here. What years did you play in the NFL?

MARINO: '83 to '99.

NICHOLS: That is a large number.

MARINO: Seventeen years.

NICHOLS: Exactly. So what technology innovations did you say came through while you were there?

MARINO: You know, I was thinking about this. And actually, I hope it don't age me, but the projectors and film and then it went to video. Early in my career, it was still projectors. Now you can get packages into videos.

NICHOLS: On the ipad.

MARINO: Yes. Simply.

NICHOLS: Yes. Well, the latest thing now is virtual reality. Six NFL teams have put virtual reality system into their facilities including the Arizona Cardinals. And Coy Wire got Larry Fitzgerald and crew to show how they can simulate a game without ever even breaking a sweat.


COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS: Bigger, faster, stronger. In my nine years of playing in the NFL, that was always the mantra. But the days of simply throwing around weights and running wind sprints have come to an end. Sports performance training is evolving at an alarming rate because of technology.

BRUCE ARIANS, ARIZONA CARDINALS HEAD COACH: I was kind of blown away by the technology initially.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Real time. Real football. See it to your own eyes.

CARSON PALMER, ARIZONA CARDINALS QUARTERBACK: I put it on and it took me literally two plays. And I was like, this is so cool.

WIRE: As a former Saints, I think he got me to open up my hips.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. That's the key. When you run in that corner, you want the defendant open his hips and not be able to drive on that ball.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I say 25 years ago, I was looking for something like this.

ARIANS: These fine details are the things that separate you in a game, you know. Because it's just inches that help you have success out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And essentially in the play, I can even go through, if I really want to, I can go through the drop and the foot work and hitch through my reads. Where if you're just watching on film, there is no reality to it.

WIRE: It's so real. I feel like when I lift my hand up in front of my face, I'm going to see my hand because I'm standing in the stadium.

MICHAEL BIDWILL, PRESIDENT, ARIZONA CARDINALS: It's like the Grand Canyon. You can describe it, but until you see it in person, it's unbelievable and exciting with ideas like this.


NICHOLS: Yes. That would have been nice, right, to have back in your day?

MARINO: Yes, no doubt. I mean, let's try it right now.

NICHOLS: Virtual reality show.


NICHOLS: All right. You know I'm not going to let you get out of here without giving us some picks here.

MARINO: Let me get over here.

NICHOLS: So I have you a prediction wall over there. Take me through the teams you expect to do well this season, who is going to make the playoffs.

MARINO: OK. Well, let's look at the NFC. Here, you have Seattle in the super bowl. I like Green Bay once surprise in their suit. Arizona with the surprise, I think might be Minnesota because Minnesota would Teddy Bridgewater, young quarterback hitting back Adrian Peterson, I believe they can be a wild card.

And then you look at that AFC, you know, you got some usual suspects right here. Andrew Luck, he's been getting better and better every year like them. And also, you know, with the Steelers, it could be the Bengals in that division.

NICHOLS: Look at that corner.

MARINO: The right corner I like, the Miami.

NICHOLS: OK. But look underneath. Where's the commitment there?

MARINO: Well, that's a, you know, flip a coin.


MARINO: (INAUDIBLE) I think could be wild card.

NICHOLS: All right. There we go. Now, what about the super bowl? We don't place our bets in Vegas for, you know, the big game. Who should we bet?

MARINO: Well, I'll tell you who I'd like to be there since they are wild card is the dolphins. It doesn't matter who the NFC is. I think it's going to Seattle, but that's it.

NICHOLS: If the Dolphins make it, you will be celebrating.

MARINO: So be in a little bit of a homer right now.

NICHOLS: Hey, you played in Miami for 17 seasons. You got to respect the loyalty of this man.

MARINO: Thank you for taking care of me Rachel.

NICHOLS: That is definitely going to do it for us. On behalf of myself, Dan, our entire behind the scenes crew, thank you for watching. Enjoy the season. I know we will.

MARINO: All right.